What if you were told that during 18 glorious months in the 1960s, the same group of musicians recorded “Mr. Tambourine Man,” “California Dreaming,” “These Boots Are Made for Walkin’,” “Born Free,” “Good Vibrations,” and “Strangers in the Night”? That is the delicious truth behind the music industry’s best-kept secret, a revolving cluster of Hollywood-based sidemen informally known as The Wrecking Crew.
As a nifty new book by music entrepreneur Kent Hartman explains, these hard-working players—anchored by drummer Hal Blaine and featuring such eventually famous solo musicians as Glen Campbell and Leon Russell—were a one-band force of creative destruction during pop rock’s golden age. They specialized in “wrecking” the careers of the big-band jazz players who came before them, eagerly embracing the rapidly developing recording technologies that gave so much propulsion to ’60 music. The Wrecking Crew (St. Martin’s) is a valentine to Southern California and a delightful decoder ring for music fans everywhere. —Matt Welch